Anatomy of a PhD – the research proposal, part 2

By PD Martin

ImFine

Now onto the third instalment of my PhD series…also in retrospect! This blog finishes off my look at the research proposal.

In my last blog I compared this first research component to ‘drowning in language’, ‘time for yet another research topic/focus change’ or more simply ‘OMG’. When we left off I was faced with the reality of probably ditching my current research topic completely and starting from scratch. And that’s what I did.

“Literary” crime did seem to represent a good area for further research. What makes a novel “literary” anyway and who decides? You might think a novel either is or isn’t literary (with a capital L), but it’s not that simple. I waded in, and this is where I got to the language issues. Why does academic language have to be so…academic?!!! At this stage, I started to doubt my ability to get my head around some of the issues. Was I just dumber than I realised?

I read Mikhail Bakhtin’s The Dialogical Imagination and for chunks of it was left with not much more than WTF? But I kept going, wading deeper and deeper into the abyss of literary theory, the history of literature, aesthetic pleasure, the Frankfurt School and mass culture. The history of crime fiction, including detailed analysis of more literary-styled crime novels like The Maltese Falcon, Chandler’s novels, Umberto Eco, Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy. I crammed a lot of research into those few months (like most PhD students!). In the end, I had a non-exhaustive and historically defined ‘list’ of some of the elements that make up “the literary”. I won’t go into detail here, but I think it’s useful and hopefully interesting to at least mention them:

  1. Readership/audience – popular fiction is read by the masses whereas literary fiction is read by a smaller group of educated people (completely snobby!). Furthermore, readers of popular fiction are passive readers whereas readers of literary fiction are active. Don’t get me started! This topic alone would be enough for an exegesis.
  2. The role of character and narrative form – literary novels are more character-driven and popular fiction is more plot-driven.
  3. Bakhtin’s concept of heteroglossia and double-voiced discourse – is there a “literary” language and a crime fiction language? How do novels use multiple narrators and dialogue to produce multiple voices?
  4. Uniqueness versus generic conformity – literary novels are unique, whereas popular fiction follows formulas.
  5. Aesthetic pleasure – something that’s often identified as being part of a response to art, and therefore to the more artistic forms of literature.
  6. Socio-political critique/commentary – literary novels try to change society by highlighting society’s shortcomings.
  7. Sales – some people believe if a novel sells well, it’s not literary…but how can a novel’s sales figures change what it is?
  8. Literary novels are harder to read – they’re denser textually, have multi-layered meanings and require deconstruction. They may also require multiple readings.
  9. Voice, language and style differences – literary fiction tends to feature more poetic prose, often treats dialogue differently and uses more interior monologues.
  10. External evaluation – if a novel is reviewed in certain prestigious publications or wins literary awards (e.g. the Man Booker, Miles Franklin, Nobel Prize) it’s definitely literary.

I’m not saying I agree with all of these (far from it), but they are areas for research. Lots of options…too many options. With only 20,000 words for my exegesis (research component) I had to narrow it down. So, I decided to focus on five elements — the role of characterisation compared to narrative form; Bakhtin’s concept of heteroglossia and double-voiced discourse; socio-political critique; voice, language and style; and external evaluation (e.g. literary prizes). And to support my analysis of these characteristics, I will be examining four crime novels that have some literary elements Peter Temple’s Truth, Martin Amis’s Night Train, Benjamin Black’s Christine Falls and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Still a lot to wrestle into 20,000 words so I may end up cutting it even more down the track.

I presented all this at my school’s postgraduate conference in June and submitted my final proposal (and the other accompanying documentation) two weeks before my 1 August deadline. Yay! And it’s been accepted! Double yay.

So what now? Well, now it’s onto the creative component for the next twelve months. I can sit back and relax…well, it will be relaxed for me because I’m back in the zone I know, writing a novel (novella). However, the writing style will be very different to what I’ve done in the past, so it will be more challenging than my ‘normal’ time-to-write-a-book phase.

I know I’m only six months in, but so far this PhD is the best thing I’ve done in my career. I love it!

Via: P.D. Martin

    

8.2.15 - Sunday Smatterings

By JT Ellison

1000w.jpeg

Go Set a Publication Date – super cute piece by author Mardi Jo Link about the nightmare of having your release date up against a legendary book. http://www.

Some inspiration from Don Winslow@donwinslow, whose book THE CARTEL is absolutely killing it, and being made into a movie with Ridley Scott directing: “Dear aspiring writers: It took me 19 books and several decades to have this terrific year with The Cartel. Keep writing. Never give up.”

Some excellent, calming advice from Mind, Body, Green: 3 Zen Principles That Will Rock Your World (And Make You Happier!)

Tools and Toys ( a blog you should be reading if you like elegant, cool things) has a great list of books that everyone should read. Some old faithfuls and some new ones, too, but all in all, a great list: Some of Our Favorite Reads

As an introvert, Everything I Am Afraid Might Happen If I Ask New Acquaintances to Get Coffee was both hysterical and hit very close to home for me. http://

A couple of links to things from the Tao this week:

7 Minutes With… my dear friend Kim Law

And some major news on the Nicholas Drummond Brit in the FBI front – a TV deal! 7.28.15 – The Kind of News I Like To Share

Finally, as always, this week in publishing: News From the Book World

Via: JT Ellison

    

7.30.15 - 7 Minutes With... Kim Law

By JT Ellison

So happy to have my buddy Kim Law on the blog today! Kim is a Nashville romance writer who astounds me with her productivity, amuses me with great stories of writers writing pantless (come on, we all do it, but Kim’s stories turn it into a high art!), and always finds time to smile. She’s a sharp cookie who knows exactly which heartstrings to pluck with her stories. I love giving away her books because she’s just so lovely, and the books are so lovey! Meet Kim, y’all!

_________

Set your music to shuffle and hit play. What’s the first song that comes up?

Something soft and probably boring. (My taste in music disgusts my husband. :) )

Now that we’ve set the mood, what are you working on today?

Today I’m finishing up edits for my third Turtle Island book. ON THE ROCKS is set to come out January 12, and was (strangely) an “easy” book for me to write.

What’s your latest book about?

My latest book, MONTANA CHERRIES, is about a daughter who’s devoted her adult life to helping raise her five brothers and is finally getting her chance to chase her own dreams. But before she can depart from her family cherry orchard, she learns secrets about her family, uncovers buried memories that leave a lasting scar, and finds herself caring more than she expected to for old friend (with sexy green eyes). All of it leads her to question her motives for leaving Montana, and makes her take a close look at her own life.

Where do you write, and what tools do you use?

I write in several places, but the thing that’s working the best for me right now is to get out of bed and sit in the glider in my bedroom corner, laptop open, and blinds drawn. If I can do that before leaving the bedroom and “starting my day,” then I can get in two – three hours of new words. Editing is done at my desk in my office (with the door closed), and occasionally I can be found on the sectional on my covered desk—when it’s not too muggy and there aren’t too many mosquitoes out!

What was your favorite book as a child?

Would it be sad to say THE THREE BEARS? :) That was my first favorite book! My grandmother used to read it to me all the time (before I could read), until I could recite it word for word.

What’s your secret talent?

Hmm . . . I’m not sure I have a secret talent. I’d love to have one, though. I’d love to be able to read people’s thoughts on command. I think it would help with getting thoughts and feelings right in my books. Plus . . . I’d just like to know what they’re thinking from time to time. ;)

What book are you reading now?

I’m reading three books right now: 1) Marie Force’s ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE, 2) A debut novel . . . DIAMOND LEGACY, by Monica McCabe, and 3) I’m listening to BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty. (And I used to say that I could only read one book at a time!)

Who is your writing idol? Have you met him/her? If so, did you completely nerd out or keep your cool?

Nora Roberts is my writing idol. (And Stephen King, but since I write romances, I’ll say Nora.) I have met Nora at a book signing, and I was brought to tears. It was embarrassing. Especially when she looked at me as if I’d grown a second head. And I’ve seen Stephen King’s house but, sadly, not him.

What’s your favorite bit of writing advice?

Accept that it isn’t easy. Writing good books is very hard work, yet extremely rewarding. Suck it up and keep diving in until you get it right. Then sit back and be proud as heck when you’re finished! Until you start the next one . . .

What do you do if the words aren’t flowing?

Whine, eat something bad for me, and take a nap. But usually if the words aren’t flowing, something is wrong with the story. I need to step away (though I should really lay off of the sugar), and just ignore it for a bit. Often when I lay down and close my eyes, the answer (or problem) easily reveals itself.

Are you creatively satisfied?

Yes, only . . . I want more. I love writing so much, but the more I write, the more stories that come to me. So it’s frustrating that I can’t write fast enough to get them all out.

What would you like to be remembered for?

Mostly for being a good, caring person. But also, for writing exceptional books. :)

Alright, now for the really important questions:
Beach or mountains? Beach—though I love mountains, too!
Coffee or tea? Neither. Detest the taste of both.
Skydive or bungee jump? Haven’t done either yet, but would love to skydive.
Chocolate or vanilla? Boring. But if I have to choose, then chocolate.
Winter or summer? Fall ☺
Cake or pie? Cake!
Cats or dogs? Cats. They understand that I want to be left as alone as they do.
Pens or pencils? Pens
Truth or dare? Hmmm . . . I think truth. I’ll share anything, but dare me to eat something nasty and we’ll have to end our friendship.
Print or ebook? Ebook.

_________

Kim Law

As a child, award-winning author Kim Law cultivated a love for chocolate, anything purple, and creative writing. She penned her debut work, “The Gigantic Talking Raisin,” in the sixth grade and got hooked on the delights of creating stories. Before settling into the writing life, however, she earned a college degree in mathematics and then worked as a computer programmer. Now she’s living out her lifelong dream of writing romance novels. She’s won the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award, has been a finalist for the prestigious RWA RITA® Award, and has served in varied positions for her local RWA chapter. A native of Kentucky, Kim lives with her husband and an assortment of animals in Middle Tennessee.

You can connect with Kim online at:

www.kimlaw.com

twitter.com/kim_law

facebook.com/kimlawauthor

pinterest.com/kimlawauthor/

kim@kimlaw.com

And here’s a little more about Kim’s latest book, MONTANA CHERRIES!

After her mother’s tragic death, Dani Wilde had no choice but to abandon her dreams. She left Columbia University and returned to her family’s Montana cherry farm, intent on being a maternal figure to her brothers. Now the kids are grown, and it’s finally her time to fly. Her sights are on New York City, and nothing will stop her—not even an old flame with gorgeous green eyes.

Celebrity photographer Ben Denton hasn’t seen Montana in years—and hasn’t spoken to Dani since “that night” so long ago. When he discovers he’s a dad to a four-year-old—and the child’s mother refuses to care for her—Montana and the Wilde farm spring to mind. The orchard is the only place that’s ever felt like home, but will the warmth of the Wilde family be enough to help Ben figure out how to be a father?

As the Wilde family gathers for the yearly cherry harvest and Dani struggles to figure out what she really wants in life, she discovers the shocking truth about her own mother—and learns that following her heart may lead her to her dreams after all.

MONTANA CHERRIES is available in paperback at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Powell’s Books, and is also available as a Kindle Book.

Via: JT Ellison

    

7.28.15 - The Kind of News I Like To Share

By JT Ellison

Some super fun news to share with y’all today — as announced in Publishers Marketplace.

July 27, 2015 – THE FINAL CUT and THE LOST KEY by Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison

Television rights:

Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison’s NYT bestselling A Brit In The FBI series, including THE FINAL CUT and THE LOST KEY, to Amber Television producing with Endemol Shine International distributing, by Erica Spellman Silverman on behalf of Robert Gottlieb at Trident Media Group.

Talk about fun! More news as we have it.

Now you REALLY want to pre-order THE END GAME, don’t you???

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | iBooks | Indiebound | Kobo

Via: JT Ellison

    

7.27.15 - THE END GAME Is Coming... excerpt & Giveaway!

By JT Ellison

If you can believe it, there is another book soon to be born. THE END GAME, the third Brit in the FBI novel, releases September 15, and the reviews have been fantastic so far.

To whet your whistle, read on for a short excerpt. You’re going to want to pre-order this puppy, trust me!

And when you’re done, tell me your favorite British expression in the comments to be entered to win an advanced reader copy of THE END GAME!

“In nonstop action covering less than a week, Caine and Drummond are challenged as never before, taking both their personal and professional relationships to new levels. This third in the series is an adrenaline-fueled caper that’s hard to put down. Another hit for the team of Coulter and Ellison.” – Booklist – Starred Review

“Suspense lovers can rejoice at the third fantastic installment of the A Brit in the FBI series. This talented duo continues to produce books that are incredibly complex, filled with layered characters and heart-stopping in their suspense. Nicholas Drummond and Mike Caine’s growing partnership helps anchor the flat-out intensity of the action set-pieces. It will be a long wait for the next installment!” – RT 4.5 Stars Top Pick!

“The third in the series featuring the brilliant Brit adds scary technology to physical action to produce a tip-top thriller.” – Kirkus

_________

The End Game — by Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Prologue
United States-Mexico Border
Three Months Ago

Zahir Damari watched the coyote turn to face the ragged band of Hondurans on the sloping Texas side of the Rio Grande. As the last Honduran climbed up the bank, pulled up by his father, Zahir saw hope now dawning on the dirty faces, saw the relief in their tired eyes at surviving the nightmare trip. They’d made it; they were in America.

The coyote, Miguel Gonzales, eyed them with contempt–nothing new in that, he’d treated this group with unveiled scorn since the beginning of their trek eight days before. Gonzales stuck out his hand to the leader of the group, an older man, a father of two younger sons. He waggled his fingers.

“Pagenme porque ustede son unos miserables.”

He wanted the other half of the money owed. No, the thieving scum wanted more. Gonzales had upped the payoff. He saw the Hondurans’ shock, their fear, saw them talking among themselves, voices rising.

Gonzales pulled a pistol, aimed it at the group, and held out his hand again.

Zahir smiled at Miguel Gonzales, a brutal man with stained teeth and black eyes that reflected Hell. He walked up to him, his hand outstretched with bills, and as the coyote grabbed them, Zahir stepped in quickly and gently slipped his stiletto into Gonzales’s filthy shirt. Gonzales didn’t make a sound because Zahir’s knife was always true. It slid under the breastbone, directly into the coyote’s heart. Gonzales simply looked up into Zahir’s face, dropped the pistol, fell on his side, and died in the mess of dry shrubs.

The Hondurans were frozen in place, too terrified and shocked to move. Zahir leaned down, pulled out his stiletto, cleaned it on Miguel’s’ filthy jeans. He calmly went through Miguel’s pockets, pulled out a big wad of bills, handed them to the young woman closest to him, and smiled.

Buena suerte“–good luck–and he gave them a salute and walked away, toward El Paso, only three miles to the north.

The day was brutally hot, but he didn’t mind since he’d been raised in the worst desert heat imaginable. In his shirt pocket was a small notebook filled with information and strategy from Hezbollah’s top enforcer, Hasan Hadawi, called the Hammer, about a brilliant young scientist named Matthew Spenser, and how Zahir could use him to help cut off two heads of the hydra. It made Zahir’s heart speed up to think about the actual doing of it, the awesome pleasure that would course through him when he’d succeeded.

Zahir knew most of the intel and strategy was from Hadawi’s Iranian master, Colonel Vahid Rahbar, openly committed to the obliteration of anyone who wasn’t a Shia, which would leave a small world population indeed, Zahir thought.

Zahir knew Spenser and his small group were hiding near Lake Tahoe. Spenser, according to the Hammer, had gone off the rails years before when his family had been killed in London’s terrorist subway bombing in 2005. Now he led a small group called Celebrants of Earth, or COE, their goal to eliminate oil imports from the Middle East, but no murder, no casualties. The idiot ideologues, Zahir thought. Until recently, the group had operated in Britain and Europe, blowing up small to mid-sized oil refineries, small crap. But now they were here, in America, their message to the media after each bombing always the same:

No more oil from terrorist countries or you will pay the price.

Both the Colonel and the Hammer believed Spenser was an unsophisticated anti-Muslim zealot, and ripe for manipulation. Over the Hammer’s favorite gin and countless French Gauloises, he’d told Zahir to become Matthew Spenser’s best friend, his mentor, a man he would come to trust implicitly, a man he would follow. “You will gently mold and manipulate this fool’s penny-ante goals until they become your glorious ones”–that is, until Spenser became a murderer, Zahir thought, and knew it would be a challenge, but one he would win. Zahir knew he wasn’t as smart as Spenser in science, but he was years beyond Spenser in strategy, planning, execution, and sheer balls. But unlike the bare-fisted Hammer, Zahir was never guilty of underestimating an opponent, or reducing him to faults and weaknesses and strengths. He knew when to use a hammer, when to use a simple lie.

It was over the Hammer’s fourth gin that he’d told Zahir with a snicker that Spenser might have a possible weakness–a woman named Vanessa, a beauty, late twenties, red hair, milk-white skin, and blue eyes, and the Hammer showed him a photo of her. She hardly fit the image of a wacko bomber, but the Hammer assured him she’d been building bombs with an Irish IRA git named Ian McGuire and his faction. Both groups hated what they saw as radical Islam’s encroachment into their world, and according to the Hammer, this common cause united them.

With another snicker, he told Zahir the woman and Spenser were probably lovers and his grin split his mouth wide enough to see the gold filling in his back molar. He suggested Zahir seduce Vanessa away from Spenser, but Zahir couldn’t figure out what that would gain him, certainly not Spenser’s trust and friendship. He would see.

But it was Iranian colonel Vahid Rahbar who’d told him his most important goal: to steal Spenser’s amazing invention, a bomb that looked like a gold fifty-cent piece, no larger, and, according to their sources, would be undetectable. Nearly perfected, they’d heard, and the minute it was perfected, he wanted it. The colonel had rubbed his hands together. “You, my friend, will light the fuse that will begin the war, then we will explode their cities, kill millions, and none of them will even know how it was done. Our casualties–it is nothing compared to what we will gain. When it is all over, we will rule the world.” Unspoken was Shia will arise from the ashes and control the earth’s destiny.

Zahir didn’t really care if Shia ran the world or if Buddha took over. His specialty would always be in demand.

He whistled as he got into another stolen car, lifted from a side street in Reno. He would steal another car in a place named Incline Village, drive into the Sierras, and find Spenser.

He wondered which head of the hydra he’d manipulate Spenser into killing–the president or the vice president.

The game was about to begin.

_________

Chapter 4 – Pawn to G6
Bayway Refinery
Elizabeth, New Jersey

They arrived on scene along with most of the first responders. Mike speeded through the gates of the refinery, onto the long road leading to the huge converters, closer and closer to the fire. When the road ran out, blocked by a large chunk of metal, she pulled to a stop and flew out of the car, running toward the flames, Nicholas beside her, both dodging the debris still raining down. Nicholas grabbed her arm, jerked her back to him. He pulled off his leather jacket, ripped off his shirt sleeve, and wrapped it around her face. “Tie it tight.”

He ripped off the other sleeve and covered his own nose and mouth. Still, the choking black smoke seeped in, making them wheeze and cough. And then they were off. It was like running through a battlefield toward a wall of flames, he thought, as he shrugged his jacket back on. It wasn’t much protection, but some. Mike was wearing her motorcycle jacket, heavier than his, and that was good.

They sucked in their breaths and kept running. he heard Mike scream, “Over here, Nicholas!”

He changed course, dodging flying rubble, banging his hip against a concrete pylon, there to ensure the security of this place, only it hadn’t done any good. The bombers had gotten in despite all the safety precautions.

Nicholas saw a man pinned under a piece of the wreckage. His skin was deathly white and blood seeped from his legs, black in the night.

Nicholas moved behind the man, nodded to Mike. “One, two, three,” she yelled, and Nicholas pulled up the stinging hot metal burning his hands, heaving with all his strength while Mike tugged the man clear. He dropped the metal back to the ground with a crash barely heard in the hellish chaos around them.

“Bloody hell.” He shook his hands, rubbed them together, wincing at the blisters that had popped up. he hadn’t thought to get gloves from the car’s boot, lame brain that he was.

“There’s another man over there!”

Nicholas saw a large chunk of metal sticking out of the man’s neck and the odd angle of his head. “He’s dead. Keep moving.”

Mike swallowed, nodded. They wound their way closer to the center of the blast site. The heat was incredible, the flames shooting madly into the night, singeing their arms and hair, but they kept moving, picking through the rubble, looking for survivors.

‘here’s one,” Nicholas shouted, and they dragged the man free, picked him up by arms and legs, and ran him back to where firemen had set up a protected space for the arriving EMTs to tend to the wounded.

They lost count of the men they’d carried back to the staging area. Finally a firefighter stepped in their way, hands up.

“Hey. Stop, both of you. I don’t know who you are, but you don’t have the right equipment. Get back away from here, now. I don’t want the two of you hurt as well.”

Mike shouldered her way past him. “These men are going to die if we don’t get back in there. Help us or get out of the way.”

The firefighter opened his mouth to yell at her when Nicholas grabbed his arm, saw his name on his jacket. J. JONES. “Don’t bother, mate. She’s unstoppable. Come on, we could use your help. We’ll tell your supervisor you were escorting us. Move it, now.”

Without waiting to see what the man did, Nicholas ran after Mike into the flame-lit night.

Twenty minutes after the bomb went off, the scene looked like a Hieronymus Bosch nightmare scape. The air was still ripe with the scent of carnage, men stumbling from the converters, others slumped silent on the ground, bloody, groaning, so many others more seriously hurt and bleeding in the staging area. in that instant, this hell shot Nicholas back to a place more than three years before, in another part of the world, and the terrible mistakes made, and he felt a ferocious hit of pain and guilt.

The firefighter who’d tried to stop them, Jones, was at his elbow, pointing and shouting. Nicholas whirled round. He thought they’d cleared everyone in this quadrant. He couldn’t see any more bodies in the hellish light.

“What is it? I don’t see anyone.”

Jones yanked on his shoulder, pulled him backward, shouting, “No, look, over there. Bomb, bomb!” and Nicholas saw a black backpack on the ground, with wires sticking out of the top. His heart froze.

Mike was a good twenty feet in front of him. He sprinted to her, caught her, grabbed her hand, and dragged her as fast as he could away from the backpack into the darkness, yelling, “Secondary device, run, Mike, run!”

They ran toward Jones, who was still screaming at everyone to fall back, fall back.

The backpack exploded, and the world around them shattered.

_________

Fun, huh? If you enjoyed this little preview, go ahead and pre-order your copy of THE END GAME from one of these fine retailers. I can’t wait to share the rest with you on September 15!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | iBooks | Indiebound | Kobo

Via: JT Ellison

    

Arrow as Muse

By Allison Brennan Historical romance author Lavinia Kent and I wrote a series of weekly articles on the television series ARROW for USA Today’s “Happily Ever After” blog. (You can read them through the USA Today archive.) We started in the middle of

Via: Allison Brennan

    

Page 1 of 28512345...102030...Last »